Reice Bodurtha and Blanche Lewis were married -- 1645. Their children were:
A Sonne, b. 3, 14, 1646 -- Buryed.
1. John, b. 3, 13, 1647. d. 3, 30, 1648
2. Joseph, b. 1, 15, 1649.
3. Samuel, b. 10, 1, 1651.
4. John, b. 4, 12 1654. -- Drowned March 18, 1683.
The first mention of Reice Bodurtha, the ancester of all in this country bearing the name of Bodurtha or Bedortha, is found in the early records of Springfield, Mass., in the year 1641.
From what port he sailed, and where he landed on these Western shores is unknown. The name indicates a Welsh origin, and the traditions held by several distinct branches of the family corroborate this view.
Much discussion has prevailed over the correct spelling of the name, but the earliest signatures yet found give the name unequivocally Bodurtha. In the town records it is spelled Bedorden, Bedorda, Bedortha, Bodurtha, Bodortha and Bedurtha, according to the fancy of the recorder seemingly. Those who bear the name will testify to the difficulty which all strangers meet in its pronunciation, and to the variations which are often heard.
Taking into account the fact that, in the early days of our country, the art of writing was by no means universal, and that the ear was depended upon alone, for the transmission of names, it will not seem so strange that these changes should occur. In the early days of the Springfield Colony, or Plantation of Agawam, as it was then called, when no stranger was allowed to remain more than ten days without vouchers, Reice Bodurtha must have satisfied the jealous guardians of the public peace of his honesty and good intentions, for he was granted a lease of land in 1644, and in the year following, 1645, he was granted a house lot by the Plantation. This house lot lying on West side of Main Street, Springfield, extended from "Ye streete fence to Ye great river," Lombard street marking its south boundary (according to Henry M. Burt). Griffith Jones was neighbor on the north, and Deacon Benjamin Cooley on the south. Added to this was the grant of the wet meadow and woodland extending in the same line eastward, and a lot over the river in the neck, which together made him a modest little plantation. To this new home Reice took his bride, Blanche Lewis, and here were born their four sons, (1) John, (2) Joseph, (3) Samuel, (4) John.
Here on the banks of the beautiful Connecticut, shut in on the east and south by primeval forests they shared in common with the forty-five families of the Plantation the privations and trials incident to an infant settlement in a new world.
Here also they showed the world an example of a God-fearing, law-abiding Colony, living in peace with their Indian neighbors, and steadily gaining in wealth and intelligence, as well as in sturdy independence.
Additional grants of land were made to Reice Bodurtha in the years 1651, '54, and '60, and in the following year, 1661, house lots were granted to him and to his neighbors, Miles Morgan and Francis Pepper, on the west side of the river "in ye little plaine on this side of Chickabee plain," on condition that they either dwell there or sell to those who would settle there. What led to this determination to seek a newer home we do not know. Possible a growing family of sons might have suggested the need of a larger farm than could be obtained in that vicinity, or some dispute about imperfectly defined boundaries of land may have had an influence, for a further grant of land in West Springfield was soon after made, the boundary to be "Ye little brook" (since called Darby's brook) in lieu of a wood lot challenged by Reice on the east side of the river.
Still another reason may be conjectured; Springfield, like many of the towns in eastern Massachusetts, shared in the excitement relative to witchcraft which culminated in the trial of Mary Parsons, a near neighbor of the Bodurtha's, for that crime. She was acquitted but afterwards apprehended for child-murder, but died in jail before her trial. Her husband Hugh, who was a worthless fellow, made some vague threat to Mrs. Blanche for interposing a remark when he was conversing with her husband. This, in those superstitious days when every mind was filled with thoughts of witches, was construed to mean a supernatural appearance, and so when Mrs. Blanche shook out her woolen petticoat, the "electric spark" suggested the fulfillment of Hugh Parson's threat. Her child too was mysteriously ailing, and she testified in court to these facts as proofs of witchery. The excitement soon died away, but the memory of it and the gossip concerning it might not be pleasant to a peace loving man.
At all events the family home was transferred to West Springfield, and here Reice lived till his death by accident, more than twenty years afterward.
If we could lift the veil it would be interesting to learn more of the home life of this handful of settlers in the wilderness, midway between the two larger colonies of Springfield and Westfield. One thing we do know, that they were providentially preserved through the Indian war in 1675, when Springfield was burned. Their salvation was probably due to Major Treat and his Connecticut troops, who marched so bravely up on the west side of the river, to the defense of Springfield.
The year 1683 was a fateful one in the family, for in March, Reice, a son, and the wife of another son, were drowned in crossing the Connecticut. The story of this tragic event as preserved by the family, is that the three were returning from public worship on the Sabbath, when their canoe was upset, and they found a watery grave. It is said that the same day "public prayers had been put up" for the safe passage of Reice Bodurtha to England, whither he intended to sail for the purpose of receiving a legacy lately left him. The preparations for this long voyage even to the Suwarrow boots made for this great occasion are narrated.
The Bodurtha Legacy was believed in by several successive generations and served as a foundation for many a castle in the air.
Honorable mention is made of the name Reice Bodurtha in all the records. He was one of the common people, devout, liberal, industrious, modest, one whose judgment could be relied upon and one whom his neighbors could trust. As early as 1647 his name appears among several who agreed to raise a certain amount beyond that appropriated by the town for the maintenance of Rev. Mr. Moxom. He filled no great offices, but seems to have been in demand as surveyor of highways on both sides of the river, appraiser of stock, fence viewer, constable and the like. His name figures in court records infrequently; once he was fined for absenting himself from town meeting; once he was engaged in a law suit with John Bagg, growing out of the burning of a house which he had leased to Bagg; and again he brought suit against a man for setting up a ferry and thereby injuring his home lot.
The Probate Court records of Northampton, Mass. furnishes the following inventory and settlement of his property:
"An inventory of ye estate of Reice Bodortha of Springfield, deceased, was presented to this Court to which ye widow made oath before the worshipful Maj. Pynchon, Esq. Ye power of administration upon said estate is granted to sd' widow viz: Blanche Bodortha and Joseph and Samuel his two sons, and as to settlement of his estate it is referred to a more convenient season.
Here followeth a copy of said inventory, taken Mar. 23, 1683, by Jon' Dumbleton and S. Marshfield:
There is some wheat and other grain in the house for ye widdow but the Corn must be paid out to debts that are now due which cannot at present any account be given of them.
There is some clothing of John Bodurtha that is not in the inventory of his father's estate.
Mr. Samuel Marshfield of Springfield presented to this Court an agreement of ye relict of Reice Bodortha with her children in order to ye deceased Estate as to a settlement who died intestate; ye agreement following -
Whereas an inventory of o'r fathers estate being presented to this Court and power of administration being granted to our deare and tender mother and ourselves but no division or settlement as yet hath been and now with ye consent and good liking of o'r mother we have made a division ourselves, entreating ye Court to confirm ye same. As for our honored and aged mothers comfortable livelihood during ye time of her natural life, we do jointly agree that we will pay her eight pounds by ye yeare, and she shall have one or two Cows as she shall desire and one Mare and Colt to her own use, and which we will find them stuff, and be at all charges about them; and if by reason of sickness or any other way we do engage to supply her in any wants during her life.
We do agree, Joseph, being the eldest son, shall have a double portion out the land and in particular in ye 30 acre lot at the upper end of Chickapy plain he is to have 20 acres on the North side of said lot and so to run through; and in ye lower lot in ye same field being 20 acres Joseph is to have the whole; and the house lot which was father's, we do agree to divide it equally between us, ye one to have one half, the other to have ye other half.
And as for all other out lands we do agree to divide them ourselves, Joseph to have two thirds and Samuel to have one third; if that we cannot divide to our content by one taking one piece the other taking another piece.
And as to the dwelling house Joseph is to have the whole to himself, Samuel to have the barn whole to himself.
We have agreed that Samuel shall have ten acres in the South side of 30 acre lot and to have a third of 20 acre lot on the south side of it and to have a half father's home lot, and a third of all out land, and one yoke of oxen that were fathers, and a horse, ye cart and irons belonging to ye cart, a plough chain, a pair of plow irons, a -- yoak, a Musket, a Sword, then leaving mother two Cows a Mare and a Colt and such necessary household stuff as may be for our mother's use.
Joseph is to have all other movables and ye half acre of land which was our fathers, by Samuel Marshfield, and all debts that are due to ye estate and ye remainder of the stock only what is due for a cow killed, Samuel is to have his share of it, towards paying the debts due from the estate.
And as to payment due from ye estate we do agree that Joseph shall pay two thirds and Samuel one third of all kinds of debts whatsoever, to particular men or rates otherwise contracted.